Nightmare (A-Team zine)
|Medium:||print zine, fanfic|
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- Deja Vu
- unknown novel, likely not completed
Reactions and Reviews
Adult story, non-slash (although it does involve male rape.) Intense, graphic, disturbing, but very well written story of Hannibal's capture and rescue from a prison camp in Vietnam, set during the 5th season of TAT. 
One of the most common genres in fan-written fiction is, and it seems always will be, the hurt/comfort story, wherein one of the main characters is seriously injured (mentally, physically, or both), and the other characters provide whatever comfort and help is necessary. Some actual A-Team episodes which fell at least to an extent into such a genre were "Curtain Call" and "Without Reservations." In fan-fiction, it often seems that the more an author really likes a character, the more pain and suffering they get put through. If that's the case, then "Nightmare" author Rita Ractliffe adores Hannibal Smith more than anyone I think I've ever come across. Kidding aside, this is an intense, emotionally draining excursion into what happens when the unflappable Colonel Smith suddenly finds himself, for once in his life, in a situation where he is not in control, and how he struggles to deal with this afterwards. As Rita states in her introductory comments, "This is not the silly, clowning, slapstick A-Team that you grew used to seeing on the tube. They have their light moments and that was their charm. But the reality was that these were veterans - fighting men - and would have residual effects of that experience."
Set during the fifth-season of the show, the basic plot involves a suicide mission Stockwell has given the guys - the last one that will earn then their pardon - rescuing a man from a Vietnamese Prison Camp, someone who had been involved in one of Stockwell's operations. They rescue the man, but in the heat of their escape they are forced to leave Hannibal behind, and in the hands of one Colonel Dien, who just happened to have been General Chao's second-in-command at the prison camp where the guys had been interred during the war (see "Recipie for Heavy Bread"). Dien attempts ruthlessly to break Hannibal to find out the name of his commanding officer, and to pay him back for the humiliation he suffered when Hannibal escaped from the camp all those years ao. And also, because Hannibal had refused the sexual advances Dien had made towards him while at the camp.
While the rest of the guys struggle frantically to mount a rescue mission with little help from Stockwell, Dien pushes Hannibal (and Hannibal, with his usual smart mouth and atittude, pushes back), until Dien finally resorts to one method of torture that Hannibal had not been prepared for - he rapes him. Later, in an attempt to discourage any rescue missions, he arranges for a fake "execution" of his prisoner, and then sends Hannibal off on a jungle march to weaken his spirits even more and further complicate any rescue attempt.
The Team is loathe to accept the fact that Hannibal may be dead, so they mount an all-out information gathering mission through the seediest parts of Bangkok, and eventually manage to learn of Hannibal's status and that he had, after a period of time, been returned to Dien's camp. In their eventual assault on the camp, they manage to free the Colonel and a few other prisoners. But even after the rescue, they have a long struggle ahead of them - the Colonel may not survive his injuries, and even if he does the mental tramua he has suffered may take an even longer time to heal, if it ever will.
As I stated to begin with, this story is no fun-and-games. The description of the brutalities is disturbingly graphic, definitely the most realistic I have read in any A-Team fan story. This should not be too surprising, though, since Rita has put a tremendous amount of effort into researching this work, talking to Vietnam vets who had been POW's and hearing just what had happened to them. Maps, a glossary, and various documents on Camp Regulations help set the tone of realism. The writing is tight and moves, generally, very quickly. Rita has a strong sense of not just Hannibal's but all of the Team members' characters and voices. Much of the dialogue can easily be heard in the reader's mind as if it were actually being spoken by Hannibal, B.A., Face, and Murdock, and even Dr. Maggie Sullivan, who of course comes to Hannibal's help while he makes his difficult recovery. Their relationship is well-drawn and becomes a major focus of the second half of the story.
The side-plots involving the other team members keeping themselves amused - and sane - while trying to stay by Hannibal's side is well done as well. B.A. attempts to help a young Amerasian boy who looks to B.A. as a strong father-figure, while Face finds comfort with a pretty young information-dealer. Murdock tends to a garden-full of stone idols he has collected, while struggling with the guilt of feeling responsible for leaving Hannibal behind to suffer at Dien's camp. Many of the secondary characters introduced for the story, including former prisoner Doctor Hue, are convincingly drawn as well.
Other plusses: some occaisional moments of unexpected humor to lighten the mood and allow the reader a bit of fresh air now and then. And,a welcome plus to this reviewer at least, the inclusion of one gay character who is sympathetic (unlike the sadistic Dien and some of his guards) and earns Hannibal's trust, even after the attack (no, it's not one of the Team members, don't get your ire up...)
Minuses: Not many. Mainly, I could have used a bit more desciption of the attack on the camp to rescue Hannibal, which seemed to go by a bit too quickly. But I know how difficult it can be to write really convincing action sequences, so it's not a major quibble. Also, while the exploration of Hannibal's character in the second half of the story is interesting, I think some more work on the side-plots to break things up occaisionally would have been welcome.All in all, would I recommend it? Certainly, if you are interested in a "serious" A-Team story and have a good stomach for some of the more brutal passages. Last I checked Rita was selling the 'zine at $10, plus postage, and coming in at 135 pages of CONDENSED text, you certainly get your money's worth, size-wise. Last I heard there was at least one, possibly two sequels to this story in the works, involving the team going back to 'Nam (again!) searching for MIA's. I'd certainly be looking forward to reading them if they ever get finished!